Before we can begin this new chapter of our lives, I want to take the time to share about our dog Dot. We sadly lost her to heart disease last August. She was a miniature Australian Shepherd. This is the story about our sweet girl who we loved so very much.
It was Christmas morning in 2003. As was our tradition, the kids came down the stairs in order of the youngest to oldest all wearing matching new pajamas. Their pace picked up as they rounded the corner into the family room where Santa had left them each a present. They screamed with excitement, running straight to the hearth to retrieve their open and assembled toy. I cannot recall exactly what Santa brought them that year, because my memory is filled with the most special gift that we gave the kids that Christmas.
“Ok, guys, sit down on the sofa for a minute,” We said, and started recording on the camcorder. All four of them sat side by side on the brown leather sofa, with growing curiosity about what was coming next. Our tradition had always been to eat a little breakfast and then begin taking turns opening the gifts from under the tree. Instead, on this morning, we sat them down, their legs and arms wiggling with anticipation. I slipped out of the room to go get the special gift.
“Each one of you had something on your list. What have you always wanted?” Our daughter was the first to blurt out, “A dog.” Her brothers echoed her answer, “A dog.”
“You guys all had that on your list. Well, look what Mommy has.” Right at that moment I entered the room with a nine week old miniature Australian shepherd in my arms. “A PUPPY” each of them exclaimed! She heard their cries of joy and matched them with her own. Yelping in a high pitch, pushing her legs to leap out of my embrace. The kids jumped off of the sofa and raced over to the tile floor where I was keeping her, in case she piddled in her excitement. They slid to the floor with giggles and screams of delight. Our 4 year old son cried, “Yay, we got a puppy!” She jumped around, twisting her little black and white body. Our oldest son asked, “What’s it’s name?”
“I don’t know yet, we will have to pick a name.”
Our daughter asked, “Is it a girl or a boy?” “It’s a girl.” One of yer brothers grunted at my answer. They wanted to go find Kitty to have them meet, We told them to wait until later. When my husband spoke, the puppy recognized his voice and skipped over to him, barking at his legs while he continued to record the whole thing. He had been the one to go pick her up from the breeder, and had spent the five hour drive creating their bond.
It was a strong bond that would endure for the next 14 years. She was always especially close to him. It did not take long for us to choose a name for Dot. Her silky black coat had a big white dot of hair on the back of her head, which led us to calling her “Dot.” I liked the short one syllable quickness of her name, easier off the tongue when needing to call her. Sometimes we affectionately called her “Dottie-Girl” or “Sweet Dot.” The latter being something I called her in her older slower days in recent years. Her younger days she was full of energy. An Aussie is a working dog, whose job is to herd animals. That meant barking and nipping at the heels of the sheep to get them to stay in the herd. Dot knew her job, and was constantly at work. As the four kids played in the yard, she barked and chased them. The more they ran apart from one another, the more she barked at their heels.
Dot was a very smart and loyal dog. She never hurt anyone, not even Kitty. Those two figured their relationship out the day Dot joined our family. With one hiss and swing of her paw, Kitty showed Dot who was in charge. Somehow Dot knew that she could chase, play with, bark at, but never would hurt Kitty. Over the years they enjoyed each other’s company, sleeping near one another near the heat of the fireplace, eating in food bowls side by side, laying at our feet under the table while we ate, and both greeting us at the garage door when we arrived home.
It’s been almost three months, and I still expect to see Dot waiting at the kitchen door when I come in from the garage. She isn’t there. It’s only Kitty, who has become increasingly vocal lately, meowing very loudly. Maybe she is lonely for Dot too. She was with us for fourteen years, living in Texas, Connecticut and Virginia. Dot and Kitty both adapted to our new environments as we settled into new homes. Relocating was hard on our family but having Dot and Kitty with us always brought comfort. Our family was intact and just in a new spot. That first winter in the northeast, Dot’s coat grew thicker and she learned to love snow. On one of our moves we had to live in temporary housing for several months. It was close quarters with four active kids, a herding dog, and a disoriented cat. With no backyard, we had to take Dot on many walks to relieve herself. I remember those nights when my heart was aching for the friends we were missing from Texas; I’d be openly crying as I walked Dot on the path behind our condo. She wagged her tail, put her nose into the cold air smelling for snowfall. She was happy just to be with me on a walk. I wondered if she missed the swimming pool in Texas, how she used run circles around the pool barking wildly as the kids swam. Just for fun, we would all come to the center of the pool in a tight herd, which would make her stop barking. Then one of us would swim away from the group, Dot would immediately bark and even jump into the water herself to push that person back towards the group. The kids loved her constant efforts to chase and keep them together. Dot seemed to thrive in every place we lived.
It was not until we moved to Virginia that I can say with certainty that Dot had a strong feeling for any place. We had property we owned that we visited often. We called it the farm, a word that once uttered would get her dancing in the kitchen with excitement. While there were no sheep to herd, Dot ran free across the grassy fields, running so hard she’d be limping on sore muscles when we returned from a visit. For an Australian Shepherd, this place was paradise. I can remember her sitting in the grass nearby with her nose in the air, taking in her surroundings.
Dot was our family dog for 14 years. The kids were under the age of nine when we brought her home as a puppy. Now they are all adults. Saying goodbye to her was sad for all of us. It was the end of a chapter in our lives. We love and miss you Sweet Dot!